The awe of witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration can be topped by only one thing: seeing the migrating wildebeest calving. If you visit the Serengeti during February and March, you’ll get to witness this show of nature – one of Tanzania’s best safari experiences.
It was February, and we’d come to the Serengeti to see the amazing spectacle of wildebeest calving. Mobile migration camps follow the herds throughout the year and position themselves close to the wildebeest during calving season.
We chose a beautiful, permanent tented Lodge/camp in a remote part of the southern Serengeti. It had large tents of wood and canvas, offering a true Out of Africa safari experience. Our camp was very intimate, with only eight guest tents, each with en-suite bathroom and a common area for meals and relaxing between game drives. From our private verandah, we could enjoy a morning cup of tea or coffee while keeping our eyes peeled for game.
On our first morning we set out early, thrilled at the prospect of witnessing the wildebeest calving. We headed towards the plains in an open game-drive vehicle. As we drove our guide, Paul, set the scene for us: ‘The principal players in this incredible drama are the wildebeest, numbering about 1.7 million, with supporting roles for some 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 12,000 eland.’
‘Pregnant wildebeest are attracted to the calcium and magnesium-rich grass, which is good for milk production. Wildebeest calving occurs from late January to mid March, when more than 80% of the females give birth over a period of a few weeks. Never far away are the carnivores. Lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah and lesser predators await the annual calving with eager anticipation.’
‘In reality there’s no such single entity as “the migration”. The wildebeest are the migration – there is neither start nor finish to their endless search for food and water, as they circle the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in a relentless round of life and death. The only beginning, I suppose, is the moment of birth.’
And we were here to see the greatest birthing of all on the short-grass plains at the southernmost extent of the wildebeests’ range. We drove onto the plain and into an enormous herd of wildebeest that stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see. They hardly paid our vehicle any attention.